Chatham University announces next president
Former women's college Chatham University chose a man for its top post one semester after the school first began accepting male undergraduates.
David L. Finegold, 52, will take over as university president when Esther Barazzone retires in June after 24 years in the role. He will be the first male president since the 1970s to lead the private liberal arts university, which was founded in 1869 as a women-only college.
“He's been involved with women's issues his whole life,” said Jennifer Potter, chair of the Chatham Board of Trustees. “He's really a feminist at heart.”
Potter announced Finegold's new role Thursday morning at the Campbell Memorial Chapel on the university's campus in Shadyside. A committee of alumnae, faculty members, students and trustees launched a national search for a new president after Barazzone announced last summer she would retire. The board unanimously approved Finegold's appointment Thursday morning.
While the school has admitted men to its graduate programs since 1993, the school has accepted male undergraduates only since last fall. The change wasn't immediately welcomed by all alumnae, because some preferred to preserve the university's all-female tradition, Potter said.
Finegold, who will officially become university president July 1, said he asked members of the search committee during the interview process whether they were sure they wanted a male president during this time of transition.
“They assured me that the campus community was really just looking for the best candidate,” he said.
Evelyn Freeman, president of the alumni association, said she is impressed by Finegold's dedication to liberal arts education and gender equality.
“He has a very strong grasp of how higher education is changing and what we need to do to build upon that strong heritage and move Chatham forward,” she said.
Finegold is the chief academic officer for American Honors, an organization that works to build and expand honors programs at community colleges. He has more than 30 years of experience in higher education and previously served as dean of the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations and senior vice president for Lifelong Learning and Strategic Growth at Rutgers University. He graduated from Harvard University in 1985 and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, where he earned a Ph.D. in politics in 1992.
His academic background combined with his experience as a university leader, a fundraiser and a researcher made him stand out among hundreds of applicants, Potter said. The school's trustees wanted someone who will help continue to grow Chatham's enrollment, expand its online presence and build on its reputation as a leader in sustainability.
“I think he's going to be great,” Potter said.
Chatham offers several degree and certificate programs. About three-quarters of Chatham's nearly 2,200 students are in graduate school. The freshman class had 211 students in the fall of 2015, compared with 104 in fall of 2014. Full-time undergraduates pay more than $16,000 in tuition per term, according to Chatham's website.
Hired in 1992 as the school's 18th president, Barazzone is among the longest-serving private college presidents in the country.
Her tenure hasn't been without controversy. The final years of her leadership have been marked by a high turnover of senior staff members and a steep decline in enrollment, which ultimately led to the decision to begin admitting male undergraduates.
A 2012 survey from the Chronicle of Higher Education of compensation rates for private college presidents said Barazzone ranked 267th among 537 college presidents with a total compensation of $362,606. Chatham officials said she received a $1.2 million, multi-year deferred, retirement compensation package that was paid in 2011.
Barazzone got a standing ovation when she was introduced before Finegold during Thursday's announcement.
“She leaves very large shoes to fill,” Potter said.
Elizabeth Behrman is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. She can be reached at Lbehrman@tribweb.com or 412-320-7886.